Born in rural Indiana in 1915, Bill Peet began drawing at an early age, traipsing through the woods looking for animals to sketch. In school, Bill doodled and drew in the margins of textbooks. Fascinated by the mechanical workings of trains, he often sneaked into the local station to draw them.
As a teen he loved the circus and sketched as much of it as possible, usually from memory. Successful in art classes at high school, he eventually won a scholarship to The John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis.
Following college, Disney Studios in Hollywood hired him as a sketch artist. During the next twenty-five years, Bill began to write children's stories, based upon ideas from bedtime stories told to his children. Bill enjoyed great success in writing 36 books for children, dealing with ambition, arrogance, aging, bravery, bullying, compromise, conceit, courage, environment, hope, loyalty, vanity, and helping others. We hope that you enjoy the following samples of his marvelous stories.
THE CABOOSE WHO GOT LOOSE
written/illus by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1971), 48p, Ages 5-8
Katy is a caboose who is tired of being the last car in the freight train. It's too noisy, smoky, and jerky to her way of thinking. She longs for the simple, quiet life, but has little hope of achieving it, until one day an accident releases her from the train. "When Katy hit the curve she took off like a kite, \ High over the treetops on her first and last flight, \ That would quickly have ended poor Katy caboose \ If it hadn't been for two towering spruce." Watch how Katy spends the rest of her days with plenty of fresh air, peace, solitude, and a great view.
BUFORD THE LITTLE BIGHORN
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1967), 48p, Ages 5-8
A young, innocent mountain goat learns to adapt to a serious handicap—overgrown horns. Unable to keep up with the other rams and forced to leave his mountain home, Buford takes refuge with cattle to avoid roving hunters. Discover how Buford escapes danger to become a great skier and "the star attraction at the Little Big Pine winter resort."
HUBERT'S HAIR-RAISING ADVENTURE
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1959), 40p, Ages 5-8
"Hubert the Lion was haughty and vain / And especially proud of his elegant mane. / But conceit of this sort isn't proper at all / And Hubert the Lion was due for a fall." Embarrassed by accidentally setting fire to his beautiful mane, Hubert hides in a hollow tree. His friends suggest various remedies (hair-growing seeds, needle and thread), but Elephant remembers a remedy (crocodile tears) and begins a dangerous journey to locate them. Kids will enjoy how Elephant cleverly collects the tears, how Hubert experiences a strange transformation, and how Barber Baboon creates an artistic and unforgettable haircut. Young and not so young will enjoy this rhyming tale of vanity, humility, and hilarious nonconformity.
FAREWELL TO SHADY GLADE
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1966), 48p, Ages 5-8
When urban development begins to encroach and destroy their forest home, the animals decide to search for another shady glade. To the old raccoon, leader of the animals, the world was a mystery, but he knew it was time to leave. Jumping onto a moving train was dangerous, but "they jumped, each one in a perfectly flat four point landing. Everyone but the roly-poly raccoon who hit with a big bounce and nearly rolled off before he caught himself." They travel by meadows, through polluted towns, past forests, and hundreds of shady glades, but jumping off a moving train proves challenging. When the train is forced to stop, they discover a new shady future. This story of friendship, working together, environmental pollution, and preservation of the natural world should be shared with every child.
KERMIT THE HERMIT
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1965), 48p, Ages 5-8
A greedy, cranky, selfish, old crab lives alone and battles seagulls for food each day. "And he'd have been greedy the rest of his days / If an odd twist of fate hadn't changed Kermit's ways." When a young fisherman saves him from disaster, Old Kermit decides to mend his ways. By accident, he discovers buried treasure, and with the help of a pelican friend, Kermit repays the boy's act of kindness. Children need to hear more messages about the importance of kindness and helping others.
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1979), 48p, Ages 5-8
Sir Galavant is a brave knight. His war-horse, Clyde, is not. When a menacing ogre terrorizes local farmers, Sir Galavant eagerly begins a search. Clyde has reservations, when the knight locates the ogre and decides to give the monster a fighting chance. Terrified, Clyde runs away leaving the knight behind, but has second thoughts. "'If there's even a slim chance,' thought Clyde, 'that I could do something to save him, then I must take a chance. If I'm not half brave enough, then I must pretend to be brave! I'll put on a big act!'" Discover how Clyde finds his courage, tricks the monster, receives help from an unexpected source, and rescues his friend. Elegant, magical, and full of wonder, most contemporary books cannot complete with Bill Peet's excellence in storytelling.
written/illus. by Bill Peet (Houghton Mifflin, 1978), 40p, Ages 5-8
Old, weak, and unable to hunt for food, Eli shares his meals with a flock of noisy, squabbling vultures. Vowing to ignore them and never make friends, Eli finds himself rescuing one from a fox. Suddenly a hero and dismayed at their devoted companionship, Eli tries to turn the vultures away with insults. "We will do as you wish, and leave you be. But no matter what you say, we are still your friends, and in some way we old birds might prove to be useful someday." When tribesmen hunt Eli, the play-acting vultures save their friend from certain death. Respect and friendship are sometimes hard to achieve, but they are so rewarding when attained.
THE SPOOKY TAIL OF PREWITT PEACOCK
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1973), 32p, Ages 5-8
Prewitt is different from the other peacocks. Instead of a multi-eyed beautiful tail, his scraggly tail consists of a few feathers that grow into a creepy, scary, two-eyed face. Chased away from the jungle by the flock, Prewitt becomes a hero after a remarkable encounter with Travis, a scrawny old tiger, who stalks the peacocks. "From that day on, wherever Prewitt went the other peacocks followed close behind. Very close."
ENCORE FOR ELEANOR
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1981), 38p, Ages 4-8
Eleanor is a great circus performer. "But great circus stars can't keep going forever, no matter how clever they are, and after performing her act for over forty years, the old elephant was getting weak in the knees and was fearful of falling." Taken to the city zoo to live out her days, Eleanor feels useless and lonely, until one day she watches an artist sketch one of the rhinos. Intrigued by concept, Eleanor tries drawing a clown with her trunk. Suddenly, she is the star of the zoo and a performer once more.
CYRUS THE UNSINKABLE SEA SERPENT
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Readers, 1982), 48p, Ages 5-8
"Once upon a time there was a giant sea serpent named Cyrus. Even though he was a horrible looking monster he wasn't the least bit fierce." When called a sissy, he decides to sink a ship to prove his bravery. Following the Primrose, Cyrus reconsiders his decision when the ship encounters the doldrums, storms, and is attacked by pirates. Blowing the ship across quiet seas, using his body as a flotation devise during storms, ramming the pirate ship, and pulling the damaged Primrose to safety, Cyrus becomes a mighty hero. Children and adults will enjoy the marvelous message of courage, self-sacrifice, and protecting life.
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1984), 30p, Ages 5-8
As a circus performer, Pamela is a flop. "She was a scrawny scraggly camel who was much too clumsy and awkward to be a performer in the big top." Disgusted, depressed, and dejected, Pamela runs away. Following a train track, she discovers a broken rail and decides to stand on the tracks hoping to prevent an accident by the approaching train. Declared a hero, Pamela returns to the circus as its star. Pamela is no longer ordinary but very special, as we all are in our own way.
ZELLA, ZACK AND ZODIAC
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1986), 32p, Ages 5-8
An abandoned, newly hatched baby ostrich is adopted and raised by a maternal zebra, Zelda. Perched on her back Zack listens as she instructs him on survival in the wild. "You wouldn't last a minute if I dumped you on the ground. / There're too many dangerous beasts prowling all around. / There're lions and hyenas and then, for heaven sakes, / Roving packs of jackals and big, creeping, crawling snakes." Growing to around nine feet tall, Zack towers above the herd. When Zelda's baby is born, Zack repays her and takes on the job of protecting Zodiac from lions and hyenas. The message of repaying kindness and doing the right thing should resonate in the hearts of all who read and listen to this charming tale.
CHESTER THE WORLDLY PIG
written/illus by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 48p, Ages 5-8
Ambitious and determined to avoid his fate at the dinner table, Chester leaves the farm and joins the circus. Resolving to fit in, he demonstrates a talent for balancing on his nose. "He was dressed in baby clothes with a lace bonnet tied under his chin, and Roscoe the clown in a frilly skirt and flowered hat wheeled him around the big top in a doll buggy." Embarrassed and humiliated, Chester escapes the circus and searches for acceptance and recognition in a dangerous, cold, and harsh world. His happy ending arrives when a passing carnival discovers his uniqueness. Kids also receive a great geography lesson about the seven continents.
written/illus. by Bill Peet, (Houghton Mifflin , 1990), 48p, Ages 4-8
Known for his spectacular crowing each morning, Dudley has the power to make the sun rise, or so the farmyard animals think. Gunther, a bad-tempered goose, who in a fit of jealousy, chases Dudley into the dark and dangerous forest. Ol Sol, the sun, declares, "If my favorite rooster doesn't crow in the morning, I'm not comin' up! There'll be no day tomorrow." Rescued after a frightening night in the forest, Dudley realizes that true friends go the extra mile to help one another. This was Bill Peet's last story before succumbing to cancer in 2002.
Additional Bill Peet Books:
The Ant and the Elephant
Big Bad Bruce
Fly Home Fly
The Gnats of Knotty Pine
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head
Hubert's Hair Raising Adventure
Jennifer & Josephine
Jethro and Joel Were a Troll
The Kweeks of Kookatumdee
The Luckient One of All
Merle the High Flying Squirrel
No Such Things
The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg
Randy's Dandy Lions
The Wump World
Bill Peet: An Autobiography
The Children's Hour was created to promote and encourage reading to children. We believe that reading aloud not only creates a special bond between parents and children, but it is important to the development of their imagination and curiosity. Our books are also great choices for children to read.
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